How did you first get involved in zines and diy culture?
I got involved in the Edmonton punk scene when I was young and zines and DIY kind of just went with the punk scene. I ordered a lot of zines online as I think there were only one or two distros in the city and I really liked perzines which were hard to get a hold of.
We read in Broken Pencil Issue 71, that you took over 780 Distro in February, after you had contacted the previous owners who didn’t have the requisite time to run the distro. What have been some of the biggest obstacles in running the distro so far?
The biggest obstacle, hands down, is finding content to fill the machines. So each machine has a set price point that you can’t change, for example, they’re set at $1 and $1.50 and then there’s a newer machine that’s $5. I come from a background of people not making zines for profit, but more just to get their thoughts out so it’s really hard approaching zinesters who don’t think the same way. I can only pay between $0.50 to $0.75 per copy because I need the profit from the machines to buy even more zines. Some people don’t understand this and want like $2-$4 per zine/wholesale.
It’s really different now because more people are doing zines for profit or trying to make a buck or two and forgetting about the whole DIY part. Don’t get me wrong, I totally understand wanting to make some money, but they’re sending off their stuff to be printed professionally and charging like $20 for something they could have done themselves. I like to think that zines should be accessible to everyone which is why I guess I’m just an old cranky lady who thinks paying more than $5 is outlandish and not affordable for many people.
Also, it’s really tough saying no to people when they send something in for submission but it won’t fit in the machines. The machines can only hold quarter size zines or smaller, which I explicitly state on the submissions page, but I guess some people don’t read it.
Zine vending machines are one of our passions, we remember running across a Distroboto machine in Montreal years ago. We have long wanted to refurbish an old vending machine to distro art. Nevertheless, it seems like one of the obstacles is a lack of mechanical or technical repair skills. What happens when the machine is on the fritz, or what if you have to move the machine on short notice. It seems some support or general infrastructure is required?
I haven’t really run into any issues. The two main machines aren’t electronic. The one issue I ran into when I first took over them was that the keys were legit “screwdrivers” and not actual keys. You’d have to jam the key into the lock and keep turning and turning to undo the screw to open the machine. I got help from my partner and we actually drilled the locks out and replaced them with coded padlocks which makes life so much easier.
How do you source the vending machines?
I haven’t had to source any as I’m having trouble finding places to put additional ones, but I do have a machine that’s being donated by a friend of mine. She came across it from some dude and said she didn’t want it. It’s exactly like the other machines (an old school counter top snack machine), so I’m pretty lucky. I just have to find a cool place that actually wants a zine machine in their business.
There are currently three 780 art vending machines running? Any plans to expand through Edmonton, or other cities?
No plans as of yet. There’s actually only two vending machines now, the $1 machine was removed from Latitude 53 as it wasn’t moving as much product… But I’m looking for somewhere new to place it!!! Hint, hint!
There seems to be an ardent zine community in Edmonton. We‘ve heard great things about Undercover Books, and the Edmonton Zine Fair and the Hard Copy fair. How supportive have you found the broader Edmonton diy community to be with 780?
It’s been great. I distro’d at the Edmonton Zine Fair and Mattie from Clean Up Your Act Productions is a huge supporter of zines and DIY in general. Lots of people were familiar with the vending machines which was actually a surprise to me.
Where should zinesters send their sample work, and what are the size, i.e., dimension restrictions?
They can get the deets off the website 780distro.com, please remember to read about the restrictions!!! They can also feel free to submit smaller crafty goods that are in-line with the mission of the distro. I have stocked the machines with buttons, patches, etc.
What’s the next step for the distro? Where would you like to see the distro evolve, in the next few years?
Not sure yet. Just keeping afloat for now with great content would be rad. Ideally, in the next few years, it’d be awesome to have machines in all key areas of the city and have a couple machines dedicated to marginalized voices (i.e., people of color).